What is the difference between Food Safe and Food Grade?

Last Updated on October 20, 2022 by Mattias

It’s a common assumption that these terms mean the same thing, but that’s not the case. 

But what is the difference between food-grade and food-safe? 

In this post, we’ll uncover the answer.

Below, you’ll find out the difference and the importance of choosing the suitable material, which is essential when collecting rainwater for drinking. Let’s dive in!

What is the difference between Food Safe and Food Grade?

It took us a few years in this business and many discussions with plastics companies to finally understand the subtle difference between food-safe and food-grade plastic barrels. 

Part of the confusion is that both types are made of HDPE

A material that is designated as “food safe” by the FDA. 

Food safe means it can come in contact with the food you eat, and you will be safe. 

Food safe is OK for a wide variety of kitchen uses but not necessarily for long-term storage. 

That is where food grade comes in. The FDA reserves food grade for food packaging and is designed to ensure the long-term safety of the food in the container. 

The idea is to prevent leaching: food-grade plastic does not contain any dyes or recycled plastic deemed harmful to humans. 

In addition, the food grade designation means no other harmful chemicals were used in the resin or the production of the plastic container.

So what does this mean for you and the application to drinking water? 

As you may know, a catchment system made of 100% virgin, no-dye HDPE is highly food safe and ideal for catching water and relaying it to a barrel or bucket. 

The key is to ensure that any barrel used in conjunction with the system for drinking water should be food grade and say so on the container. This is in addition to the other considerations we have mentioned previously. (link can I drink the rainwater)

What are food grade materials, and what materials are safe for food products?

Food-grade materials are safe substances suitable for their intended use, like direct contact with food products. 

Here’s a list of food-safe metals and plastics.

Food safe metals:

  • Stainless steel 316: Machine parts, containers, utensils, containers, machine parts
  • Stainless steel 304: Utensils
  • Stainless steel 430: Containers, good for corrosive foods
  • Titanium: Machine parts, utensils
  • Cast iron: Pans, pots
  • Aluminum: Baking trays, cans 

Food safe plastics:

  • HDPE: Food storage buckets, bottles, food wrappers
  • LDPE: Cling film/wrap, waterproof inner container layer, six-pack connector rings
  • PET: Jars, bottles, containers
  • PP: Disposable microwaveable containers, yogurt pots

Summary for Food Safe vs Food Grade 

I hope you enjoyed this post about Food Grade vs Food safe. 

As you learned, the biggest difference between food grade and food safe is regarding the materials and the finished product. If you don’t have the right material when harvesting rainwater, for example. 

You risk getting toxins or dangerous substances in your water. So make sure to look at your barrel before harvesting any rainwater, or if you already got one.

Go and check now!